DANVILLE — When Dave Smith was in high school, he would go to the beach at Geode State Park with his friends early in the morning to play Frisbee.

As the day went on, the teenagers would move their game farther and farther back from the water's edge as more people showed up to spend the day on the beach.

“It was the place to be and the place to be seen,” said Smith. “You could meet everybody there. You knew everybody was coming.” 

Years later, Smith now leads the Friends of Geode group, and sees a chance to give the community gathering place a new life through the organization’s first project.

About a week ago, the Friends of Geode started a fundraising campaign to renovate the old concession stand on the beach at Lake Geode.

The volunteer group needs $134,500 to transform the building, which has sat vacant since the mid-1990s, into a functioning space. Smith said plans for the building include non-motorized boat rentals, limited food and snack items, camping and fishing essentials and Friends of Geode merchandise.

Smith said he would like to see tables set up outside with umbrellas, and a restored L-shaped counter to eat at. 

The state might be able to help with some of that cost. Smith said if the Friends of Geode raise half of the money needed, the group will be eligible to apply for a Community Attraction and Tourism (CAT) grant, which could fund the second half of the project. 

Park officials have kept the building in pretty good shape, Smith said. 

The exterior of the building, built of limestone from a nearby native quarry, remains solid. However, the interior needs more work.

“When they built it they built it right,” Smith said. “The foundation has held up good. The floor in there has only one crack I can see. The building is solid, but that is about it. The roof is shot. The electrical needs completely redone.”

Friends of Geode will be responsible for completing interior work, while the Iowa Department of Natural Resources will complete exterior renovations, Smith said. The friends group will pay for all of the work, but the DNR wants to ensure the exterior work is done according to its state park requirements and looks similar to buildings in other state parks. 

Smith said several people have already pitched fundraising ideas, including a 5K/10K run at Geode State Park in the spring or summer.

Friends of Geode applied for 501(c) non-profit organization status, and once approved it can seek donations from bigger corporations, such as Case New Holland and Winegard Co.

Smith said he hopes to have at least half of the money raised by the middle of next year, so the friends group can apply for the CAT grant. He hopes plans to complete the concession stand project coincide with the refilling of Lake Geode. 

If completed, Friends of Lake Geode will be in charge of operating the stand, and Smith said he is not sure at this time whether it would be volunteer run or paid positions.

Those interested in donating to the concession stand renovation project can contribute at gofundme.com/friendsofgeode or by mailing donations to Friends of Geode Concession Renovation Project at P.O. Box 156, New London, 52645. 

If interested in joining the Friends of Geode group, contact Smith at info@friendsofgeode.com or (319) 671-1124. 

Smith said if everyone who saw the group’s Facebook post about the project gave just $2, the Friends of Geode would have more than enough to renovate the concession stand.

“I’m putting the cart before the horse here,” Smith said. “But I am confident that we are going to get this done, and I really think it is going to be a good thing.” 

Once the renovation project is completed, the Friends of Geode group will continue to operate and fund other projects at Geode State Park.